Ross Lyon, Ken Hinkley and Adam Simpson. Pictures: AFL Photos

A NEW year brings fresh hope and the opportunity for AFL coaches to turn over a new leaf.

So with season 2024 on the horizon, what will each coach be resolving to fix in the New Year?


With a forward line that is the envy of the competition and a midfield group that is building nicely, getting the defensive structure right will be key for Matthew Nicks in 2024. With Tom Doedee out the door and Nick Murray set to be sidelined until mid-year due to a serious knee injury, Nicks will need some new players to step up in the backline. Top draftee Dan Curtin fits the bill perfectly, versatile recruit Chris Burgess could also be an option while Jordon Butts will be back after a foot injury. If Nicks can get his defence right, the Crows could be a major threat in 2024. – Martin Smith

Daniel Curtin during the AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium on November 20, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

CHRIS FAGAN (Brisbane)

It was worth trying Cam Rayner in defence early in 2023, but Chris Fagan should solemnly swear to leave the powerful mid-forward where he can do the most damage. Rayner might not turn out to be a prolific Petracca or Dusty clone, but he can absolutely be a match-winner with 15 touches on the attacking side of the centre square. Strong in the air and a brute in the contest, a confident and settled Rayner adds an extra dimension to the League's most potent attack. Michael Rogers

Cam Rayner celebrates a goal during the qualifying final between Brisbane and Port Adelaide at The Gabba on September 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


Give Orazio Fantasia time to settle in. The 28-year-old played just 19 games in three injury-interrupted seasons before being delisted by Port Adelaide and given a lifeline by the Blues, who see him as filling a vital role as a small forward. At his best, Fantasia could well be the last piece of the puzzle that Michael Voss is looking for in the Blues' quest to win their first premiership since 1995. – Brandon Cohen

Orazio Fantasia at Carlton training on November 27, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CRAIG McRAE (Collingwood)

Losing a player like Dan McStay is a significant blow for Collingwood, but luckily for coach Craig McRae, he's got the whole summer to come up with a Plan B. McStay's 2024 campaign is over before it even began after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the first week of pre-season. His absence leaves a giant hole in the Magpies' forward line and McRae now needs to set about finding someone to fill his shoes. Will Ash Johnson step up and take his chance at the top level? Maybe Mason Cox or Billy Frampton will make a more permanent move to the forward line. The Pies also have a handful of players vying for a spot during the pre-season supplemental selection period who may be the right fit to fill McStay's void. Whatever the answer, McRae's biggest priority is finding the 28-year-old's replacement, and pronto. – Alison O'Connor

Dan McStay after the preliminary final between Collingwood and GWS at the MCG on September 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BRAD SCOTT (Essendon)

It might be tempting, especially if the Bombers' forwards are fit, but Brad Scott had one massive win in 2023 and that was Kyle Langford. A utility who was set to play in defence this year, Langford proved a revelation up forward, kicking 51 goals to make the All-Australian squad. If Peter Wright, Jake Stringer, Jade Gresham and Archie Perkins are fit, there could be a temptation to move Langford elsewhere, but the 27-year-old should be a regular inside 50. – Dejan Kalinic



When the Dockers made a surprise finals run in 2022, they went 9-4 at their Optus Stadium home, but that slipped right away this year. Freo was 5-7 at its home ground in 2023, a record which hurt its chances of reaching September this year. The Dockers won five games interstate, but they desperately need to make Optus Stadium a fortress if they are to enjoy a good campaign in 2024. – Dejan Kalinic

Fremantle players celebrate a goal during the R23 match against Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium on August 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


The Cats desperately missed dynamic midfielder Cam Guthrie as they slid down the ladder after winning the 2022 premiership, so getting him back up and firing will be a top priority. The two-time club best and fairest winner played the first six games before undergoing toe surgery that kept him sidelined for the rest of the AFL season. Guthrie is as crucial as anyone to Geelong's engine room, finishing second at the club for clearances and tackles, and first for contested possessions in their flag-winning year. – Brandon Cohen

Cam Guthrie in action during the R3 match between Geelong and Gold Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium on April 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


During his highly successful stint at the Tigers, Damien Hardwick built a brand of football that was quintessentially Richmond. Starting afresh again for the first time since 2010, Hardwick will now need to do the same at the Suns – build a gameplan and get the players to embrace it. There's no doubt Hardwick has the talent on his list to steer Gold Coast to finals for the very first time, but getting them all on the same page quickly before any doubts creep in for a club that has been starved of success - will be critical. – Martin Smith

Damien Hardwick at Gold Coast training on November 27, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ADAM KINGSLEY (Greater Western Sydney)

With an Opening Round clash against Collingwood looming large, Adam Kingsley needs to resist the temptation to pore too closely over the narrow preliminary final loss to the Pies. Missing a Grand Final by a single point is the stuff of off-season nightmares but the Giants coach (and the club's fans) would do far better to dwell on the scintillating footy that got them so close to the game's biggest stage. Burn the replay, Kingers, and put on Toby's 2023 highlight reel instead. Michael Rogers

Toby Greene celebrates a goal during the preliminary final between Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney at the MCG on September 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


Work out Denver Grainger-Barras' best position. Is he a defender? Is he a forward? The 21-year-old has taken time to develop after being drafted as a key back at No.6 in the 2020 draft. He spent most of the season in defence for Box Hill in the VFL, before a brief foray in the forward line saw him kick nine goals in consecutive games. That earned him an AFL call-up, but despite his competitive nature and love of the contest, only managed four goals from five games. With the additions of Jack Gunston and Mabior Chol to complement Mitch Lewis in attack, where does that leave DGB in 2024 and beyond? – Brandon Cohen

Denver Grainger-Barras celebrates a goal during round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


Simon Goodwin has one priority this year - find a way to get his forward line functioning. The Demons' cohesion and accuracy in attack has been their Achilles heel for far too long and it proved costly on the big stage in 2023 - they had 32 more inside 50s than Collingwood in the qualifying final but couldn't get the job done, then went on to lose to Carlton despite having eight more scoring shots. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, however, with Harrison Petty proving a revelation in attack last season before his campaign was cruelled by injury, while there's confidence the additions of Jack Billings and Shane McAdam will bring some polish to the Demons' attack. – Alison O'Connor

Harrison Petty celebrates a goal during the match between Richmond and Melbourne at the MCG in round 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


There's no doubting the Roos have some good young talent around the ball and up forward, but the departure of Ben McKay and long-term injury to Griffin Logue does leave them looking very thin in defence. Alastair Clarkson will have to rely on Aidan Corr and Charlie Comben to lead the way, while the club also added Toby Pink, Bigoa Nyuon and draftee Wil Dawson in the off-season. It'll be a big test of Clarkson's credentials as he looks to maximise the potential of the raw and inexperienced backline he has at his disposal. – Martin Smith

Aidan Corr in action during North Melbourne's clash against St Kilda in round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

KEN HINKLEY (Port Adelaide)

Plugging the leaky defence will be priority No.1 for Ken Hinkley. Port conceded more points (1906) than any other side in the top eight last season as Aliir Aliir played almost a lone hand in the tall defender space for the Power. However, help is on the way with key defenders Esava Ratogulea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher both landing at Alberton during a busy Trade Period for the club. It would be unfair to expect the new additions to be their saviour, but their mere presence will be enough to give a much-needed helping hand down back. – Alison O'Connor

Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in action at at Port Adelaide training session on the Gold Coast in December 2023. Picture: Isabal Gawel, Port Adelaide FC

ADEM YZE (Richmond)

It's a pretty simple task for Adem Yze: hold your nerve, and try new things. There's not a heap of pressure on the first-time senior coach after Damien Hardwick suddenly drew the curtain on his triple-flag tenure. So why not give Noah Cumberland a sustained run in the forward half? Play Tyler Sonsie in the centre square and see if he's got what it takes at AFL level. Ditto Thomson Dow. And when it inevitably goes a little pear-shaped, persist and back your players (and yourself). The Tigers are on the verge of a new era, and it's time to find out what the youngsters can do. – Michael Rogers

Noah Cumberland (right) is tackled by Tyler Sonsie during Richmond's training session at Punt Road Oval on November 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ROSS LYON (St Kilda)

St Kilda was one of the lowest-scoring teams in 2023, which worked fine as long as its defence held up. But when teams were able to poke holes in their back-half set-up, the Saints suffered as they weren't able to score goals of their own in reply. The Saints were middle of the pack in terms of inside 50s, but just couldn't convert efficiently, kicking the fourth-lowest number of goals in the comp – behind lowly North Melbourne and West Coast, and inconsistent Hawthorn. They had the third-lowest goal efficiency in the comp, and the second-lowest scoring accuracy. Playing attacking footy has never been a Ross Lyon hallmark, but his resolution for the new year should at least be to tighten up converting those inside 50s. – Sophie Welsh

Jack Higgins reacts after missing a shot on goal during the R19 match between St Kilda and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on July 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


The Swans have done the work in the off-season to improve their contested ball and clearance numbers and now John Longmire and his coaching staff will look to implement it. Bringing Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams to the club will re-shape the onball brigade, which proved to be their Achilles heel in 2023. Losing Callum Mills for a large chunk of the season is a massive blow to these plans, but Longmire will nonetheless head into 2024 with more proven onball weapons at his disposal. – Martin Smith

Taylor Adams and Brodie Grundy at Sydney training on December 4, 2023. Picture: Phil Hillyard


Let the kids loose in the middle. The future is here and now for the struggling Eagles, and it's time for Reuben Ginbey, Elijah Hewett, Campbell Chesser and a guy called Harley Reid to take the reins in the engine room. Tim Kelly, Dom Sheed and Elliot Yeo are still around as experienced heads but the only way to lift this club out of the doldrums is to get games into the aforementioned youngsters. What have you got to lose? – Brandon Cohen

Reuben Ginbey in action during West Coast's clash against Gold Coast in round nine, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

LUKE BEVERIDGE (Western Bulldogs)

It's time to find peak Jack Macrae again. The three-time All-Australian had a down season in 2023, averaging 25.3 disposals – his lowest number since his first season in 2013 – to go with 4.4 tackles and 4.1 clearances. His centre bounce attendances plummeted to just 36 per cent, as his role became less certain. Macrae turns 30 in 2024 and is contracted for another four seasons, so the Bulldogs need to find a way to get the silky left-footer back to his best if they are to rebound. – Dejan Kalinic

Jack Macrae handballs during the R12 match between Western Bulldogs and Geelong at Marvel Stadium on June 3, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos